The Data-Inspired Guide to B2B Customer Data Platforms

Download eBook

How the Right CDP Can Improve Your Business Performance and Drive Faster Growth

Your customers are people. In their personal lives, they increasingly have relevant, responsive, and consistent interactions across multiple channels with B2C brands on a daily basis. Their experience with B2B brands, tends to be different, however. All too often, B2B campaigns are self-promoting and self-congratulatory – and ultimately ignored. Is it any wonder that according to Forrester Research, only 1% of all leads turn into revenue?1

As B2B marketers, we recognize the problem and know that having good data is foundational to delivering B2C-like experiences for our buyers. However, only 12% of B2B marketers have confidence in the quality of their data and 84% say that data management is a key weakness for them.2

We’ve created an introductory guide to help you understand what a CDP (customer data platform) is, the value it can bring to your organization, what to look for when choosing a CDP, and how it can help you improve your overall business performance. It will highlight how CDPs enable marketers to overcome these challenges by establishing a single source of marketing truth – a consolidated data source for segmentation and audience creation that can be used to deliver more relevant, responsive, and consistent buyer interactions across all your channels.

Here’s an excerpt from the guide to get you started:

What Is a CDP?

As a B2B marketing professional, you may feel like your plate is overflowing with acronyms. First MAP and CRM, then ABM and MQLs – now CDP? Take a deep breath because we’re here to guide you. And the best part is that a CDP is the glue that holds all of your sales and marketing data together, so it’s actually going to make your life easier!

According to the CDP Institute, “A Customer Data Platform is packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”3 Why is that so important? Today’s buyers are digitally savvy – and they expect the companies they are buying from to be as well. They expect you to know what they need, what their pain points are, and how to solve them. But organizing all of this data – especially in a way that makes it available in one place across teams and technologies – is no easy feat. That’s why having access to a solution that can help you consolidate key prospect and customer data (e.g., attributes, behavioral insights, and spend patterns) is critical to success.

Why Are CDPs Emerging as a New Technology Category?

The short answer is: 1:1 omnichannel marketing. As the B2B buyer’s journey has become increasingly digital and self-serve, the number of marketing channels used to target those audiences has also increased, as has their complexity. Think of how email marketing has evolved to include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and programmatic advertising. This expansion has resulted in a vast amount of siloed customer data that resides in each of these program execution platforms. It has created an enormous operational burden on marketing teams who are striving to deliver coordinated, relevant messages across channels. Furthermore, it has created a disconnect between sales and marketing.

Marketers are spending hours upon hours manually stitching together lists with the hope of having a consolidated set of accounts to engage across their various technologies – and this is the crux of the problem that CDPs are meant to address. CDPs can be leveraged to help marketers centralize data so they can deliver coordinated, targeted messages across all channels in an efficient and impactful way. It also ensures consistency across sales and marketing activities and outreach.

Why Invest in a CDP?

Every company on the planet wants to find a way to sell their goods or services to the right customers as quickly as possible. But the relentless challenge of managing a flood of inaccurate or incomplete data can be a roadblock.

As a B2B marketer, you are probably bombarded with a surplus of technology and solutions claiming they can help you improve your performance, grow your business, and generate stronger revenue. It can be overwhelming as you navigate through the emails, webinars, and podcasts promising the perfect strategy and offering you shiny new tools.

The good news about CDPs is that the value proposition is straightforward and the benefits are easy to see. With access to the right CDP, you will be able to identify your ideal prospects, improve productivity, and drive personalized omnichannel campaigns. Plus, you’ll achieve better alignment, faster growth, and a stronger ROI.

Quick Tip: Need help making a business case for data management? Try our free Data Quality ROI Calculator to see the potential impact better data can have on your business.

How Does a CDP Work?

A CDP takes in customer and prospect data from your sales and marketing systems (e.g., your marketing automation solution, CRM, web analytics, etc.), enterprise systems (e.g., ERP, transaction records, product usage records, and support calls), and third-party data sources. It consolidates, structures, and unifies all of this varied data in one place. An advanced CDP will also offer access to predictive analytics, so you can create audiences aligned with your business goals. The ideal CDP then seamlessly activates programs aimed at those prospects in 1:1 campaigns across channels – both online and offline.

The process looks something like this:

Why Do I Need a CDP When I Have a CRM or a DMP?

While a CRM (customer relationship management) system provides some helpful insights about sales activities, contracts, support, and service requests, a CDP connects customer and prospect data directly to your campaigns, go-to-market initiatives, and sales outreach. In a world where numbers matter and executives are looking for concrete results, it’s critical that you are able to prove performance and show value across your campaigns and activities. A CDP helps enable successful campaign attribution by showing engagement data in a single view.

Now – what about DMPs (data management platforms)? DMPs are essentially the data warehouses for advertising. Advertisers and agencies use DMPs to collect, store and utilize their first-party audience data – when they have it. These platforms also aggregate and provide access to third-party data that can be used for new audience acquisition or to augment first-party data. It is a place to activate your data across digital channels and tends to rely heavily on digital third-party data to boost scale for top-funnel campaigns. They are designed to aggregate that data from a variety of sites and sources – which tend to vary in accuracy and quality. While you can use this data to generate traffic, build awareness, and target new prospective customers online, a CDP provides more in-depth intelligence on your customers and uses first-party data collected directly from them (so you know it’s more accurate and safer to rely on). 

If you’re activating your data purely on digital channels only, a DMP may be a good fit for you. But if your go-to-market channels include sales (CRM), email (MAP), digital (DMP), and social media (LinkedIn and Twitter), you may want to consider a CDP to help tie together the audiences you reach across all channels. While a DMP may help you drive new traffic to your site, you won’t be able to do much with it if you don’t have insight into who the visitors are or how to convert them into customers – that’s where a CDP comes in handy.

How Can a CDP Help With ABM?

Ask ten people how they define account-based marketing (ABM), and you may hear ten different answers. So, we turned to the experts at SiriusDecisions, who explain ABM as “the strategic approach marketers use to support a defined universe of accounts, including strategic accounts and named accounts. It also includes support for the post-sale customer lifecycle using marketing’s toolkit to contribute to the overall customer experience.”4

Marketing organizations struggle to scale their ABM programs because each application they deploy has its own data, segmentation, activation, and measurement modules. This has led to a confusing and fractured buyer’s journey because banner ads, social ads, emails, and sales calls communicate different messages. The right CDP solves this problem directly by integrating all the application data into one place and providing the ability to manage, segment, and activate it through open APIs. 

Having access to real-time data in a unified system can help you improve personalization and deliver a better customer experience overall. After all, successful ABM starts with understanding your accounts and knowing which ones to engage – and a CDP delivers on that promise by consolidating all your account data in one place..

How Do CDPs Drive Productivity for Marketing/Sales?

According to Forbes Insights, it takes marketers a great deal of time to understand the performance of a marketing campaign or to make improvements to the customer experience. In fact, 47% say it takes more than a week and another 47% claim it takes them three to five days. Only 19% say they have a “robust set of analytics tools and technology services supporting customer-data-driven decisions and campaigns.”5

But with access to a reputable CDP, you have the ability to bring your siloed customer and prospect data into one environment and generate a single view of your customers.

But with access to a reputable CDP, you have the ability to bring your siloed customer and prospect data into one environment and generate a single view of your customers. You’ll have access to powerful new insights and the ability to share information about your audience across sales, marketing, and more. With consistent, high-quality data being shared across teams and technologies, you will see new opportunities faster, be empowered to create more targeted and impactful campaigns, improve the overall buyer’s journey, and accelerate revenue growth for your business.


Marketing directors can leverage a CDP to send targeted lists directly to lead dashboards – for a sales blitz, for example - for sellers to see which customers and prospects they should contact based on propensity to buy, engagement history, and more. This helps sellers spend less time searching for accounts and more time selling to the ones who will create growth for your business!

How Do You Find the Right CDP?

Marketers beware! We’ve done the legwork, and it turns out not all CDPs are created equally. David Raab and the CDP Institute created the RealCDP certification program to reduce confusion about CDP vendor offerings and help buyers find the right platform for their needs. To receive certification, a CDP must be able to:

  1. Ingest data from any source
  2. ‍Capture full detail of ingested data
  3. Store data indefinitely
  4. Create unified profiles of identified individuals
  5. Share data with any system that needs it

For B2B marketing and sales teams, there are five additional capabilities we believe are critical for a CDP to possess:

  1. The ability to map leads to buying groups, accounts, and hierarchies: You’re likely selling to individuals in buying centers and accounts that live in account hierarchies. You need to be able to connect those individuals to their place in a buying group or any account hierarchy.
  2. Deep integration with the sales channel: In order to generate revenue, sellers need to be able to work the leads and recommendations sent to them from their marketing teams effectively. As such, the integration with sales tools must have capabilities designed to drive adoption beyond simple data sharing. They must have access to the same information leveraged by the marketing team, and it needs to be accurate.
  3. Open and flexible AI: As marketers, we crave agility – and artificial intelligence (AI) provides the flexible sifting and automation capabilities required to create the right segments and prioritize your target audience. You need the ability to create models for different types of predictions (e.g., likelihood to convert, buy more, to churn and expected spend). Even if you have an in-house team of professional data scientists these models, it’s important to ensure the CDP can import and leverage them properly.
  4. Third-party data integration: Marketers use many third-party data sources for segmentation and targeting (e.g., firmographics, tech install data, public intent and keyword search data, and market share data). This data should come pre-integrated with the CDP to reduce the overhead needed to manage multiple third-party data contracts. But, the CDP must be able to easily ingest any non-first-party sources and incorporate that data into unified profiles.
  5. Platform independence: Given that a majority of B2B marketers have a complex martech stack, it is critical that vendors are not exclusively tied to one platform or marketing/sales cloud (e.g., Marketo, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle Eloqua, etc.). They need to be flexible and functional across your technologies.

For more on how to find the right CDP vendor – including a helpful cheat sheet with the top questions you should be asking – continue reading The Data-Inspired Guide to Customer Data Platforms.




  1. Forrester, “The New Physics of Lead-to-Revenue Management,” 2013.
  2. Forrester, “Customer Data Platforms Offer a Compelling Solution to B2B Data Challenges,” 2019
  3. Customer Data Platform Institute, “Customer Data Platform Basics,”, accessed September 2019
  4. SiriusDecisions, “Account-Based Marketing,” 2019
  5. Forbes, “The Rise of the Customer Data Platform and What It Means to Businesses,” 2018

Download eBook